Monday, December 22, 2014

what have I gotten myself into?

After my successful ab challenge in October, and then 30 runs in 30 days in November, I thought about giving myself a new challenge for the month of December to close out the year.  Then I realized that January is going to mark the beginning of my Ironman training.  I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm going to pick up my swims to twice per week, and work really hard to make every workout, even get in the boot camps and yoga sessions.  So, I thought, I would just take December easy, hit the workouts that I can and enjoy my last month of off-season.  Uhh....

The month started out easy enough, with my first day plan calling for "Run 20-30' Z2 or OFF" .... I chose OFF.  Then, I woke up at 4:30 on Tuesday and promptly reset my alarm for an hour and a half later... I can swim on Thursday and make my once-per-week goal.  I was off to a fantastic start of the month...
This month marked my first outdoor winter ride -- I really thought my toes would never warm up!
Also, holy hills.. I walked a lot of them b/c my heart rate got so high
(also lots of stop signs, hence the super slow pace).  Thanks, Jen M., for the photo.
Enter Tuesday's spin session.  I fell off my trainer.  That's right, I feel off a stationary bike!  Don't worry, Xena is a little traumatized, but we are both OK.  Thankfully, I have been doing my spin sessions on my own in the privacy of my house, so nobody witnessed this!  I jumped back on the bike and kept going, 1 minute left of the Z4 section and then 3 x 2 min Zone 5b... I thought I was going to die on the first one.  My heart just about jumped out of my chest.  Two more?  Really?  Talk about a demoralizing workout. 

Next up, Wednesday morning track.  The world must really be testing me this week because it rained on us pretty much the entire time!  And... mile repeats!!  I'm supposed to run multiple miles in a row?  With increasing heart zones, mind you!  And this is when it hit me, this isn't even Ironman training yet.  This is winter training!!  I've got nine months of even harder workouts to look forward to?  Starting with next week's track workout which includes 1.5 miles.. that's one POINT FIVE!!
My hand looks like a kindergartener's hand after coloring class!
And then..... I decided to go for my PMP certification for work.  I was confident I wouldn't miss any workouts and was even brainstorming where to take a shower after track practice (turns out Fairfax rec centers allow showers for only $2..good to know!).  Turns out, the course was so intense that I did not make one single workout the entire week.  Hell, I didn't do anything that entire week except study study study.  I realized that I am not going to be able to do things like that during Ironman training.  It's one thing to miss workouts now, in December, but it just can't happen once training really ramps up. 

It's a little overwhelming when I start to think about how life is going to change as training really picks up.  I remember being exhausted last summer when I'd hang out with friends after a morning ride...and we're talking only 30-40 miles.   I went with Jon and Darcy to a concert one Thursday night earlier in the month (think it was the week I fell off the bike trainer) and the band didn't go on until almost 10:00 PM.  I actually went out to the car to take a nap because I was just so tired, and then Jon and I left after only 3 songs.  I suppose these are just the sacrifices one has to make when they have Ironman dreams... guess I'll have to stick with day drinking??
One little update is that I re-joined Arlington Road Runners (ARRC) for the winter session.  Since joining Team Z in March, I made it to exactly one weekend run, and I ran by myself the entire time.  Honestly, I have been running by myself at ARRC also, which is fine, but it is nice to be able to see some old familiar faces from my marathon training days.  Also, I just love running around DC versus the boring trails out in the suburbs.  And as a bonus, Paula lives just across the bridge in Georgetown and so it makes it super convenient to meet up for brunch or to tack on some extra mileage when my plan calls for more than the run group is doing. (disclaimer: I actually skipped an ARRC run to go to my 2nd-ever Team Z [hash] run... 10:15 start vs 7:30am?  that's a no-brainer!)
So here we are with just a couple weeks remain in my "slacker" month and then the new year will be here and and Ironman training really begins.  Under 300 days!  Seriously.... what on earth have I gotten myself into??!!!!  The next 9 months are certain to be an adventure, that's for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jingle All the Way 5K

Just before Turkey Trot that my friends bailed on me for, Jessie sent out another email asking if anyone wanted to do this jingle bell 5K. I dragged my feet, not sure if I wanted to dish out another race fee, and not sure if I'd end up doing it alone again. But since I had a good race on Thanksgiving, I really wanted to see if I could run the entire 5K distance, so I asked a couple of my other friends if they'd be up for it, and Heidi was!  Awesome!

The day before this race, I'd run 6 miles (and IHOP with Paula!) and wasn't sure how my legs were going to fare. I was also exhausted and was cursing my alarm when it went off early for the second weekend day in a row. I sure am glad that Heidi was doing this with me because a) otherwise I might've been tempted to bail, and b) I hadn't heard a peep from Jessie and the others since everyone said we had signed up. I hadn't done laundry for awhile so I had to scramble around to find some clothes to accommodate the cold weather, and found some old fleece ski liner pants in the bottom drawer...done. I drove into DC and actually found parking not too far away and without driving around the block *too* many times.
Freedom Plaza.  Heidi and I actually did our very first ever race together from this same spot,
years ago  (14 yrs?) for the St. Patrick's Day 10K
Picking up our race numbers, collecting our shirts, meeting up with Heidi and bag drop off all went smoothly and we timed it perfectly so that we didn't have to wait too long for the race to begin. Like the turkey trot, dogs and strollers were allowed, but the numbers weren't nearly as high and as such didn't annoy me half as much as the last race. Heidi and I started out, and she told me that she would match my pace. My only goal was to run the entire distance. 

About half mile in, Jessie did find us, and it was good to see her, Eileen and Marcie as they ran by. Heidi and I continued at our pace and finished the first mile in 12:39, which is not bad for me, and Heidi said it was her usual pace also. I've never had anyone who runs the same pace as me since Nelda and I trained together for my first marathon in 2007, so that was pretty cool. The second mile was a little slower, coming in at 13:13, and included a bitterly cold wind tunnel. I don't know how to drink while running, so I opted to jog through the water stop, but did slow a little so that Heidi could get a quick couple of sips.
Nice little run through downtown DC.
Once we were in the last mile it became clear that we were going to be able to meet my goal of running the whole way, and we actually sped up a bit!  We completed mile 3 in about 12:48 and then it was a sprint to the finish. Heidi got a little tripped up on a cup that someone had dropped, but we were so close to the finish that I darted ahead - I'm such a bitch! Karma got me though as a group of slow[er] runners completely blocked my path to the finish, which made me super annoyed. I crossed the line and turned around happy to see Heidi had quickly recovered and was just a few steps behind me. We did it!  Total time: 40:32.

From there we grabbed a bottle of water, collected my bag and started heading over to the Hamilton, where Jessie said everyone was meeting for brunch. Unfortunately it was completely packed when we got there and decided to go around the corner to Old Ebbit instead. Jessie and Eileen came and joined us for about 2 seconds before going to eat with Marcie who had found seats some place else. Heidi and I enjoyed some good food and a couple of refreshing drinks before parting ways. I headed home, took a shower and then went with Jon so he could get breakfast and we cheered the Ravens on to a very necessary win. Not a bad Sunday (though I'll have to make up some time on my bike later).

Friday, December 5, 2014

he called me a runner!

When I went in for my vo2 max test for running, the instructor (tester?), Ken, not only called me a runner...he called me a good runner...and a strong runner. Make no mistake, he didn't call me a fast runner...but a runner nonetheless. This makes me happy.
Home of the Vo2 Max test.
It's always kind of irritated me when I hear people say they are really slow... at 10 or 11 minute miles.  Kind of like when I was in school and people would say they did awful on an exam, only to find out they are the ones that ruined the curve.  Anyway, no, sorry, a 25 minute 5K is not slow.  I'd feel like a complete and total rock star if I could pull off those times.  There's a difference between "not fast" and "slow" and it's called middle of the pack.

But... we are all individuals and created differently.  To the people who are running 10 or 11 minute miles but know they can do better, I suppose that IS slow.  It's all relative.  Meanwhile, I have apparently been running too fast.  Yes, that's right, my 13+ minute miles have been too fast.  Seriously?  If I slow down any more I'm going to have to speed up to stop!!  #kidding #notkidding
Anyway.... my vo2 max test revealed that my zone 2 is a nice 13.5-15 minute per mile pace.  That's walking for most people.  You have to work hard to *run* at that pace.  But alas, that's where I'm at.  And training in my appropriate zones will make me a better runner.  We'll see...

So here I am, trudging along at my slower-than-molasses pace, doing my 30 runs in 30 days challenge.  It's been interesting trying to map out my perceived efforts with the appropriate heart rate zones.  I've been doing more running than walking though, and even dropping a lot of my walk intervals, only walking when my heart rate gets too high.  My long runs can continue to be run/walk intervals, but Coach Ken suggested that I start increasing the run/walk ration to 3/1..5/1...7/1... 10/1?
And then, wouldn't you know it?!  Right before I was supposed to run the Schaeffer Farms 5K.... another injury!  At some point the outside of my left foot around my ankle started hurting.  After a little internet investigation, I self diagnosed myself with peroneal tendonitis. Humph.  At least this is just an overuse injury that I am hopeful will heal on its own with ice and the use of a brace, though it did mean I had to walk a few more of my 30 "runs" than I had initially intended.  Though for full disclosure, this was not the main reason I skipped that 5K... such a long drive to Germantown, MD for only 3 miles, and I had plans that would prevent me from having brunch with the girls afterward so really, what's the point?!
Beautiful Saturday morning run!
The 30 runs challenge also sparked some creativity.  I've started taking advantage of the treadmill in my office gym (usually those are just walks so that I don't have to take a shower when I'm done).  I have had Jon drop me off a few miles away from home after we've been out.  There were beautiful days on the trail when I got to catch the last of the leaves changing colors, and there were freezing days when all I could think of was a hot shower.  There were days when my heart rate would sky rocket and I was "running" an 18 min/mi pace (too many layers of clothing??) and days that I was just cruising along able to keep my heart rate in zone 2 with no problems.
This is also the field where I used to play soccer with Joann...miss those days.
Luckily, that pesky little injury didn't take long to heal.  Oh, and remember those hard track workouts I was so nervous about?? No biggie!!  It's hard, no doubt, but doable.  I struggle with the heart rate though.  Often when the plan calls for zone 3, my heart rate jumps into zone 4 and stays there, and sometimes even gets as high as zone 5.  When I'm supposed to be in zone 4, forget it, I'm off the charts.  Then, Coach Ed has been talking to me about my running form and cadence, but as I try to increase my cadence, my heart rate gets even higher.  UGH.  I guess I just have to work at it.  Coach Ed reiterated to me that I just need to suck up my pride and slow down - even walk - to keep my heart rate where the plan calls for, and that if I stay with the science, I will improve.  Trust the training.  And.. if/when I get *too* frustrated, I can get tested again in 6 to 8 or 12 weeks.
Number of runs per day in November...
Had to double up those last couple days thanks to my New Orleans adventure!
I must say, I feel I ran a successful Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and probably have the training to thank for that.  Patience, Jen.  I do wish it had been a 5K so that I might've been able to run the entire thing (instead, I took 2 walk breaks).  As such, I signed up for a Jingle Bell 5K next weekend to see if I can do it.  Anyway, another successful challenge is in the books.  30 runs in 30 days completed.  November totals:
  • Swim: 2h 42m - 5750 M
  • Bike: 4h 15m 22s - 58.42 Mi  (it's a start)
  • Run: 15h 19m 27s - 53.54 Mi  (so much time, so little distance) 
Not really running related, but the highlight of my month was my trip to New Orleans
to cheer on my Ravens in Monday Night Football!!  Thanks Tommy [and Paula]!!
Final score?       Bourbon St: 1       Jen: 0
I'll tell you what has definitely improved though, is my run endurance.  I can now go out for a 30-40 minute run and actually run the entire thing without walking (disclaimer: the term "run" is used rather loosely here; most would call it a jog, or a walk with a bounce... still, it's a distinct difference in movement from just walking). I'm also enjoying it more, now that I don't feel like death after every workout!

Maybe Ken is right.  Maybe I am a runner. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Alexandria Turkey Trot

I had already been thinking about doing a turkey trot 5K this year when Jessie sent out an email about the Alexandria 5 miler. It's a little longer (2 miles) than a 5K and definitely a lot further away from Fairfax.... but doing it with friends is always preferable than no company, right?  Of course a week after I signed up, everyone who was going to do it bailed, so now I'm driving all the way to Alexandria to do FIVE whole miles by myself (with the ironman budget what it is, it just didn't make sense to blow another race registration and sign up for a 2nd - closer - race).  Oh well, big girl panties are on so let's go...

The drive to Alexandria was fairly uneventful, and I was able to park and get my packet with plenty of time to spare.  What now?  I sat in the car a bit, stood in line for the port-o-johns, sat in the car a bit more, stood around in the school lobby (where packet pickup was) and then finally it was time to start lining up.  I saw Sherri and Leanne and a couple others with Team Z shirts on that I didn't recognize, and we exchanged our hello's.  I was ready to get this thing over with!
I started a slow jog, trying to keep my heart rate down for awhile so that maybe I could run the whole thing.  People were passing me, but I kept myself from getting wrapped up in the excitement and go faster than I should.  Dogs and strollers were welcome in this race, but were supposed to start after everyone else and from a different spot, so imagine my surprise when I kept having strollers right up on my ass.  So freaking annoying!  Funny, the dogs didn't bother me at all...

One mile down, all running, and I was pleased.  But 4 more miles is a long way to go.  I kept trudging along, and we saw the leaders of the race pass by in the other direction and everyone cheered.  Then we saw the first women and everyone cheered again.  Then, amazingly, not too long after that, we saw the lead dog runner!!  I cheered my butt off for him, of course.  My heart rate was getting higher.  Like, seriously higher, high zone 4 easy.  I think that's allowed in a race though??  Passed the second mile marker and I'm still going strong, and the heart rate hit zone 5.  I wasn't feeling terrible though and just kept on plugging away. 
There was a water stop just at the third mile marker and I decided it was OK to walk for that.  Then, I realized I needed to rest a bit and bring my heart rate down a little, so I walked about a quarter of a mile.  Back to jogging, and now my heart rate is all over the place, zone 4, zone 2, zone ZERO??  Weird.  I had to walk once more toward the end of that 4th mile, but was able to get back into my groove and run that last mile to a strong finish, and Sherri was there to cheer me across the line!  Anti-climatic though, as I didn't have any people with me, so I grabbed a bottle of water and did a cool-down walk to my car. 
The one thing I hate about Turkey Trots is that there is no post-race breakfast place open.  I settled for some iced tea and a slice of awful ginger bread from a coffee shop near my house.  I took a super long hot shower, and then lounged around for awhile until it was time to head to Mom's for Thanksgiving, along with Joann & Daz and Jon and his family.  Another Thanksgiving is in the books.